14 April 2016
President Benigno S. Aquino III received United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and other members of the US Department of Defense (DOD) to talk about the two countries’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the US Maritime Security Initiative for South East Asia, and the ongoing Balikatan exercises among the Philippines, US and Australian forces plus eight other observing nations.
The US Defense Secretary came to Malacañan Palace with US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, US Defense Secretary Chief-of-Staff Eric Rosenbach, US Defense Secretary Senior Military Assistant Eric Smith, US Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear, Special Assistant Ylber Bajraktari and Pentagon Press Secretary David Cook.
President Aquino was accompanied in the call by National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Hernando Iriberri, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr., DND Undersecretary Pio Batino, CCSJP (Cabinet Cluster on Security Justice and Peace) Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, and DFA Assistant Secretary Maria Austria.
After the courtesy call, the US Defense Secretary held a press conference with DND Secretary Gazmin where they announced recent developments between the two countries’ defense initiatives.
“We’re trying to tamp down tensions here. We can’t do that by ourselves,” said Secretary Carter.
The EDCA between the two countries have resulted in three additional steps to be taken by the US. There will be joint patrols in the South China Sea, a contingent of US military aircraft will remain at Clark Air Base, and a rotational command and control personnel will remain stationed in the Philippines.
Furthermore, the US Maritime Security Initiative for South East Asia will grant US$42 million to the Philippines this year to continue the country’s military modernization efforts.
US Secretary Ashton Carter also announced his presence on the last day of the Balikatan exercises on April 15, 2016.
* * *